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A new mass extinction has been identified during the Triassic period, some 232 million years ago -- called the Carnian event. It was less easy to identify because the different sites around the world were hard to date and cross-match. But it was important because it marked the likely trigger for the explosive takeover of the Earth by dinosaurs.
Using a new statistical method, a team from the University of Bristol, has pinpointed the event.
Method - Breakpoint - Analysis - Counts - Species
The statistical method is called breakpoint analysis. Counts of species from many samples through the Triassic were compared, and a straight line was fitted to best explain changes in the proportions of dinosaurs to other beasts. To improve the fit of the line, a model was used that allowed for one break, but the position of the break was not specified.
Professor Mike Benton from the University of Bristol's School of Earth Sciences led the project. He said: "This method is great. We know where we think the change occurred, but we don't tell the computer.
Numbers - Break - Point - Time - Kind
"We let it crunch the numbers and identify the break point, or the time when one kind of ecosystem ended, and the new one began. In this case, it landed precisely on the point in the Carnian when major environmental changes triggered the extinctions."
Massimo Bernardi, a co-author of the report, and now curator at...
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